Samsung identifies Digital Health in 2018 M&A Focus

January 16, 2018

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Samsung Electronics’ $8 Billion purchase of automotive and audio electronics company Harman has given the technology conglomerate confidence to chase more big deals said its Chief Strategy Officer recently at Slush startup event in Helsinki, Finland.


Young Sohn, the South Korean company’s Silicon Valley-based president and chief strategy officer, said he was keen for world’s top maker of memory chips, smartphones and televisions to expand in automotive markets, digital health and industrial automation.


Samsung, which this year surpassed Intel to become the world’s biggest semiconductors manufacturer, has signaled its appetite for dealmaking over the past year, saying it was seeking businesses to build software and services to further differentiate its products. 


However, it has provided few details on sectors it is targeting in its push for mergers and acquisitions.


Asked to spell out Samsung’s potential dealmaking priorities for 2018, he said the company would continue to invest in expanding its automotive business. 


Another category he singled out as “an area of opportunity” was digital health, specifically preventive health and related technologies. 


Finally, in business software, he said Samsung is looking at companies in the areas of industrial internet, automation, networking, data transmission and security. 


“We are a very careful and conservative company, so we will do it where it makes sense,” Sohn said, adding that it would also look for smaller bolt-on technology deals.


Moving beyond Medical Devices into Digital Health


Digital health care is possibly a new sector where Samsung could find a sea of new business opportunities in a world with tech-savvy, aging populations.  


Moving beyond providing electronic parts and devices, Samsung Electronics — with a younger-generation leadership — is now looking at the digital health care market, with expectations of new growth as well as challenges.  


An imminent step Samsung may take toward the new business is to combine its technological capabilities that sprawl across different divisions and focus them in an independent entity.  Restructuring moves are underway at its electronics unit’s medical device business within the consumer electronics division, according to Samsung insiders.


Currently, Samsung Electronics’ consumer electronics division includes the digital medical device business under the leadership of CEO Jun Dong-soo of Samsung Medison, a separate affiliate specialising in large medical equipment, such as ultrasound diagnostic apparatus.  


A possible scenario for upcoming organisational and business restructuring across major Samsung affiliates is to incorporate the smaller device unit in the consumer electronics division into Samsung Medison.  


“Digital health is on the list of Samsung’s new sources of growth, but hasn’t yet been discussed as a major future business as much as artificial intelligence or the Internet of Things,” said an official at Samsung Electronics. “But the long-term direction is that Samsung hopes to develop current wearable products as professional medical devices that can conduct medical checkups more sophisticatedly than now.” 



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Francis Ho - Head of Digital Health, Samsung Strategy and Innovation Centre


Dr. Francis Ho is the Managing Director of the Samsung Catalyst Fund. Francis has a background in venture capital, business development, strategy consulting, marketing, and engineering, with extensive operating experience in multiple industries including semiconductors, optics, networking, and storage. Prior to Samsung, he was vice president of Strategic Marketing at Inphi Corporation and has held roles at McKinsey & Company, JP Morgan Partners, and ONI Systems.


Francis holds a Ph.D. in physics from Stanford University, where he was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, and holds a M.S. in applied physics and a B.S. in physics from the California Institute of Technology. He holds six U.S. patents relating to semiconductor technologies.



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